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5 Reasons Fairy Tales are Good for Children

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INSIDE: 5 Reasons Fairy Tales are Good for Children

Ancient mythology and Aesop’s Fables certainly have their rightful place of importance in literature, but fairy tales offer something a little different to a child’s development. While there are some lovely fairy tale adaptations both on paper and on screen, the original versions of fairy tales work on a deeper level within a child’s mind.

They enrich imagination, cultivate deeper understanding of life’s great truths, and elevate understanding of spiritual things that can be difficult and complex to convey.

Five Reasons Fairly Tales are Good for Children.

We highly recommend you embrace the weird, sometimes intense, yet powerful versions of these wonder tales.


5 Reasons Fairy Tales are Good for Children

1. They see good conquer evil.

We live in a literary time of realism and post-modern anti-heroes. The good guy turns out to be a villain. The scoundrel has a sympathetic back story. Bad things happen to good people no matter their right choices. This is reality, we tell ourselves. We want our children to be prepared for the harshness of real life, bolstered for life’s difficulties.

Real-life conflict is layered with complexity. Fairy tales, however, are not.

Fairy tale characters have clear traits – good, clever, kind, evil, callous, devious. We’re almost never privy to their motivations and inner thoughts. In this context, such things don’t matter.

Characters are pure representations used to illustrate what the story is teaching us. Good is good; evil is evil. And good can overcome evil in the end.

Gray areas rarely exist within fairy tales because that isn’t the point. They often contain oversimplifications because that’s a function of how they teach us universal truths. We might fret about how these details could negatively impact kids. However, children typically hear and accept simplified elements as metaphors better than any adult who is knee-deep in the complexities of real life.

In her book Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale, Marina Warner states is this way:

Fairy tales are stories that try to find the truth and give us glimpses of greater things.

The simplicity of good overcoming evil is deeply reassuring to a child struggling to make sense of the wide world around them.


2. They see actions beget consequences.

Have you ever read a translation of the original Grimm’s story of Cinderella? We tend to think of the mean stepsisters as ugly, awkward, and jealous of Cinderella for her radiant beauty. In reality, they’re described as:

…two daughters who were beautiful and fair of face, but vile and black of heart…

In contrast, Cinderella is described as “pious and good” and loyal to the memory of her dear mother but not necessarily called beautiful (or blonde with an unblemished complexion, for that matter). At the beginning of the story, she is exhorted by her dying mother to remain true to these qualities, and she holds fast to them throughout dire circumstances.

The characters are defined by their actions, and their actions determine their fate.

The results are extreme. Remain pure of heart and become a princess! Be vile and black of heart and get your eyes pecked out by pigeons! Extreme, yes, but this is how fairy tales teach us.

The lesson isn’t that being “pious and good” leads to a cushy, perfect life with a prince in a castle. The lesson is that your actions matter and the choices you make lead to outcomes. Being vile and black of heart will affect your life. Striving for kindness and humility in life matters.


3. They see great obstacles overcome by ordinary characters.

Five Reasons Fairy Tales are Good for Children.

One of my favorite quotes about fairy tales comes from G. K. Chesterton:

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

Some might worry that filling little minds with stories of evil witches and scary monsters will create nightmares, but the world is already full of big, scary things to a young child.

Fairy tales bring deep fears to the surface and smash the fears to smithereens with epic tales of these obstacles being overcome. And they do this while the child feels secure and safe on the lap of a loving parent. (We do, of course, recommend using discretion if your child is particularly sensitive.)

Being clever and kind might not always be the answer to overcoming real-life trials, but the tale of The Brave Little Tailor encourages children to try. Not everyone has confidence to conquer obstacles like Grimm’s Four Skillful Brothers, but the tale offers hope amidst big, scary real-life “dragons.”


4. They enrich imagination.

To a child, the world might be full of “dragons” that require conquering, but it’s also full of wonder and mystery. The luckiest adults are the ones who maintain that child-like wonder as they age.

Read fairy tales to a child, and they’ll revel in the mystery of a quiet walk in the woods with possible fairies and gnomes behind every tree. Fill their souls with stories of magical lands, and watch them soar in their imaginative play. Give them fairy tale heroes to emulate, and celebrate when they vanquish their foes.

Fairy tales stretch imaginations far beyond what is typical. Children don’t need to be reminded of the world’s harsh realities; they need to be filled with wonder at its beauty and possibilities.


5. They benefit every age.

The great thing about fairy tales is that kids of any age can jump right in and benefit from reading and discussing them. No matter the level of understanding, there’s always something to take away.

After a decent introduction to fairy tales, children can begin to recognize story patterns and similarities between versions. This is where the fun begins. No matter the age, kids will impress you with their varied observations. All they need is some familiarity with the genre and mental space to process.

Initiating fairy tale discussions with children will look different depending on age and maturity, but don’t be intimidated to begin.


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A Few of our Favorite Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales
The Blue Fairy Book
Cinderella
A Year Full of Stories: 52 Classic Stories From All Around the World
Hans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales
Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Henny Penny – A Classic Fairy Tale
Grimm’s Fairy Tales Audio Book
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Audio Book
The Three Little Pigs
The Little Red Hen
The Gingerbread Boy
Cinderella
Jack and the Beanstalk
The O’Brien Book of Irish Fairy Tales and Legends
Irish Fairy Tales
Jack and the Beanstalk
Little Red Riding Hood

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6 Comments

  1. Christine Brewer says:

    For years I have read Fairy Tales to my children, grandchildren & students-young & old! They are always surprised by the difference of a fairy tale read aloud & a Disney movie-especially Cinderella where in the book one of the sister’s cuts off her toe so the shoe fits!
    Thank you for writing about this!

  2. Virginia Chavez says:

    As a Parent and Grandparent, Fairy Tales were a very big part of my life. To share them with my family was a loving and enjoyable part of the day. We could be around the kitchen table, at bedtime, or sitting out on the porch, it gave us a wonderful time together. I have come to realize that some of them can be very scary and need to be tempered to the age and appropriate time for each child. The children always remember them by heart and can repeat the story as they grow up. I think that the most important part of fables and fairy tales is that they do impart a message that can be interpreted in my ways. We need to make sense out of some of the more unpleasant things in life and still let them know that they can survive, and even makes things better for the future.

  3. Carole Chapman says:

    I teach a themed English Composition class (ENGL 111) based on fairy tales and folklore. My students write Summary/Response, Comparative Analysis, and Argument essays based on the theme. Developing this class has been fascinating because I was able to delve into the history, meaning, and importance of these stories. And my students absolutely love the theme! It’s especially interesting to see their responses to the original stories when they have been brought up on the Disney-fied versions. It’s added a much-needed spark of imagination to a standard Freshman Composition class. Websites like this have greatly helped my research.

  4. Child Bookends says:

    Wow! They enliven the imagination, foster a better awareness of life’s fundamental truths, and raise knowledge of spiritual concepts that might be difficult to explain. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

  5. We ordered the Blue Fairy Book right after reading your blog. I read one at night to the boys but catch my eldest during the day reading it on his own! We love them and the conversations that arise from the more complex and oddity of the stories. Thanks!

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